I’ve been doing Yoga since 1970 and, no, I’m not very flexible. These days, my 20 minutes or so every morning involve mostly stretching the hamstrings and again, I don’t seem to advance in suppleness any further day by day. I can touch my toes of my right leg in the seated half forward bend (where my left leg is bent into my right thigh) and I cannot touch the toes of my left leg. Nothing changes from day to day and I’m OK with that.
My morning Yoga routine is basically as a preparation for meditation. Meditating without stretching beforehand might mean that the release of deeply rooted stress which occurs during meditation will be less effective, that’s all.
However, it’s a completely different story when it comes to going to a Yoga class. There are very, very few classes that I’ll go to where I don’t feel a great deal better afterwards. Today, there are so many schools of Yoga and so many different types of teachers and postures you will be hard-pressed to find many similarities from class to class and level to level.
Still, I usually leave a Yoga class feeling refreshed, stretched out, worked-out and “young”, and in the best of scenarios, accompanied by a silent witnessing awareness. Also, my posture will feel super.
My wife’s much more particular. For all the classes that she’s gone to, in the Eastern Townships or in Montreal, there have only been two classes that she’s enjoyed to the point of wanting to return. One class she no longer goes to because the teacher left the Yoga Centre and the other one, where the teacher is still giving his class, currently takes place in Montreal where my wife no longer visits now that she’s finished with her catering business. When we discuss a class after taking one together, Karen’s usually more critical and negative, me more forgiving and pleasant.
Still, there’s one area of Yoga that we both agree and that has to do with Yoga teachers.
It’s the rare class where I have liked the Yoga teacher. I know that it might sound contradictory all this liking and disliking of the same experience, but I think that it’s the postures themselves which are beneficial. What the teacher has to say – and she will say quite a lot – much less so.
I have been to classes where the teacher seems to have taken her clue from the Evangelicals. In an earnest and unrelenting voice, she will sweetly and insistently attempt to indoctrinate you in the virtues of being “in the moment” and of adopting other New Age attitudes. I once had a class at the famous Kripalu Centre in Massachusetts where a male teacher went on so much about “being in the moment” during each instant of every posture (ironically, he talked so much about feeling the Silence that there was very little of It to enjoy) that I was happy to fade him out of my mind and not be in that particular moment. What a bully!
Some teachers must feel a particular yogic form of insecurity in that just quietly informing the students of each posture, of slowing and clearly leading you into more detailed and easy-to-understand subtleties of the posture, isn’t enough. They feel that they must go on and on about other things, and I’m not just talking about the reoccurring, “Don’t forget to breathe” instruction. Yoga teachers feel compelled to “enlighten” you time and time again with other arcane and irrelevant affirmations. Excuse me, the posture is difficult enough, could you please shut up and let me get into it without filling my brain with your words?
Then again, some who know their physiology very well (almost too well) must add very subtle instructions for muscle and bone manoeuvering: “Now gently tuck in you femur bone into your hip while turning your soles away from the hip and pull up into your core…”
A good teacher, for me, comes equipped with simple instructions and a true love of Silence, employing It to allow a person to learn what his or her body is telling them at the moment. Why must a Yoga teacher feel compelled to convert us to a cause? The inner Silence so greatly desired will come of its own accord through a good session. The Love and Oneness and all those other clichés so often mentioned during a class will be there too, but not due to the incessant referring to it. That is just a nuisance, as far as I’m concerned.
So, I will continue to go to Yoga classes when the circumstances present themselves, although the price of a single class (I just paid $19.55 for this morning’s bilingual class) is beginning to get a little out of my price range.
I just wish the teachers could embody, not just physically where they usually shine, but spiritually and emotionally, the deepest values that they love to talk about: Inner Silence, a deep respect and admiration for their students and their efforts, and a little less concern for transmission of the Yogic dogma which, to me, are just words, words, words.
On another note:
Could you imagine the scandal in this country, and in the U.S., if it were discovered that the past four Prime Ministers and Presidents all had mistresses on the side? Think of it for a moment: Jean Chrétien with a girlfriend in Regina, Paul Martin with a lover in Vancouver, Steven Harper with a paramour in Quebec City. Wow, the End of the Word, as we know it!
Yet, in France, the news that President Hollande has a girlfriend in actress Julie Gayet actually is being predicted as something that might possibly increase his popularity. Besides him, the past three Presidents have all fooled around during their presidency. You’ve heard of “Only in the U.S.A.”? This attitude is one of “Only in France”!